The man who led his nation, Zimbabwe, to independence, Robert Mugabe, has been laid to rest in ceremonies befitting this hero and icon of Southern African liberation. As and like other frontline nations, Zimbabwe, under the leadership of Mugabe provided unreserved support, diplomatic and otherwise, to the South African liberation movements battling against the racist Apartheid government of South Africa. For this, the frontline states paid a heavy price as their territories were often subject to armed invasions and their respective populations terrorized. Their selfless sacrifice contributed in no small measure to the liberation and independence of South Africa.
His funeral was attended by thousands, including several former and current heads of state, amongst them South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa and former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda. But as this venerable soldier of African liberation was being laid to rest, the embers of xenophobic violence unleashed against foreign black Africans, were still smoldering and threatening to reignite into a blaze which had already consumed several lives. And it appears that the South African government is doing little to stop it, let alone bring to book perpetrators of the violence.
The government of South Africa, it appears, has taken a very luke-warm stance on the matter prompting speculations that the South African government tacitly endorses the current wave of violence directed against foreign black Africans. This attitude of feigned indifference to the violence being perpetrated against foreign black Africans must stop. During the years of Apartheid, many Africans lost their lives in reprisal attacks carried out by the racist Apartheid regime against frontline states playing host to fighters of the liberation movements.
Lest it be forgotten, the wealth of South Africa was also built on the labor of foreign black Africans, thousands of who were drawn to the extractive industry each year. And they came from as far afield as Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia etc.
During racist Apartheid rule, thousands of South Africans sought refuge beyond their borders in neighboring countries and farther afield in places such as Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria, etc.
This newspaper recalls that Liberia at one time played host to many South Africans, amongst them the legendary Hugh Masekela, Mariam Makeba, Philemon Hou and others. Even Nelson Mandela paid surreptitious visits to Liberia at the time and was even granted a Liberian passport to facilitate his travel. President Mandela would later recount to a visiting Liberian delegation fond memories of his encounters with former Foreign Minister, Ernest Eastman who was at the time serving in the then Department of State.
In neighboring Guinea, former Guinean President Ahmed Sekou Touré provided military training facilities in his country for Umkhonto We Sizwe cadres of the African National Congress. In 1975, Nigeria under the leadership of Murtala Muhammed played a pivotal role in developments that led to the independence of Angola, which eventually created conditions for a negotiated settlement between the ANC and the racist Apartheid government of South Africa.
At the moment of independence, all black Africans stood in awe as President Mandela was sworn into office as the first black President of an independent South Africa.
But despite the advent of black majority rule, Apartheid’s legacy of black self-deprecation has not since gone away.
The promise of independence remains largely unfulfilled as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen just as the racial divide — a rich White minority and a poor Black majority. Under current conditions, most of the productive and fertile lands in South Africa are owned by Whites and this remains a polarizing reality of life in South Africa.
The seeming inability of the South African Government under the banner of the ANC to address such fundamental questions as the growing divide between rich and poor and between Black and White is leading to frustration among many South Africans who feel dispossessed and who wrongly perceive foreign black Africans as the cause of the problem.
Thus, while thousands of white foreigners live and work in South Africa, yet none of the xenophobic violence is directed against them neither are the foreign corporations reaping millions in profit from the South African economy and generally paying starvation wages to their employees.
Claims by some groups that foreign black Africans are taking their jobs and infesting the economy with drugs are reasons why they are being attacked fly in the face of evidence that immigrant workers may raise the South African income per capita by up to 5%, according to an OECD report entitled: “How Immigrants Contribute to the South African Economy”. (OECD/ILO (2018), How Immigrants Contribute to South Africa’s Economy, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264085398-en)
Further, according to the report, “Immigrants also have a positive net impact on the government’s fiscal balance. This is due to the fact that they tend to pay more in taxes, especially in income and value added taxes. In 2011, the per-capita net fiscal contribution of immigrants ranged between 17% under the average cost scenario and 27% under the marginal cost scenario. Native-born individuals, on the other hand, contributed -8% under both scenarios”.
Considered against the above, the xenophobic attacks on black foreign migrants are completely unjustified and the South African government needs to take firm action to deal with the situation and prevent the unwarranted loss of lives. The xenophobic attacks on struggling foreign black African migrants constitute an affront to the dignity of all Africans, especially those whose kith and kin paid the supreme sacrifice to ensure freedom for black South Africans.